Saracens v Northampton Saints: Tom Vickers' big match preview

Fixture: Saracens v Northampton Saints

Friday, 1st March 2019, 12:12 pm
Updated Friday, 1st March 2019, 12:15 pm
Tom Collins and Luther Burrell were in action the last time Saints won at Allianz Park, almost three years ago

Competition: Gallagher Premiership (round 15)

Venue: Allianz Park, Hendon

Date and kick-off time: Saturday, March 2, 2019, 3pm

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Television coverage: None

Referee: Luke Pearce (86th Premiership game)

Saracens: Malins; Strettle, Tompkins, Barritt (c), Maitland; Goode, Spencer; Barrington, Woolstencroft, Judge; Skelton, Isiekwe; Clark, Earl, Wray.

Replacements: Gray, Lamositele, Koch, Kpoku, Burger, Wigglesworth, Lozowski, Gallagher.

Saints: Furbank; Pisi, Dingwall, Hutchinson, Tuala; Grayson, Mitchell; van Wyk, Fish, Hill; Ribbans, Ratuniyarawa; Gibson, Ludlam (c), Brüssow.

Replacements: Marshall, Waller, Franks, Moon, Wood, Reinach, Burrell, Collins.

Outs: Saints: Andy Symons (knee), Harry Mallinder (knee), Mikey Haywood (knee), Dylan Hartley (knee), Teimana Harrison (hamstring), Ehren Painter (calf), Courtney Lawes (calf), Piers Francis (concussion).

Most recent meeting: Saturday, September 15, 2018: Saints 27 Saracens 38 (Gallagher Premiership)

Tom's preview: If you look at the recent head-to-heads between the two teams, some may say you should be carted off for psychological assessment for predicting a Saints win this Saturday.

But there is just a sense among those who watch the black, green and gold that this weekend could be their time to end the Saracens hoodoo.

On paper, it would appear to be a foregone conclusion in favour of the home side.

After all, Saracens have won the past eight meetings with Saints, often by some margin.

Northampton have not celebrated a success against Mark McCall's men since Stephen Myler and Lee Dickson scored in a 20-15 win at Allianz Park almost three years ago (March 5, 2016, to be precise).

And Saracens have only lost three of the 14 matches between the teams since Saints inflicted extra-time agony on them in the form of a decisive Alex Waller try in the Premiership final of May 2014.

But barren runs are there to be broken.

And Saints' sorry streak against Saracens surely has to end at some point.

Forget Why Not Us?, how about Why Not Now?

Saints are in great shape, having won four of their previous five Premiership matches.

Their confidence is through the roof and by scoring late on to beat Bath last Saturday, they showed they have substance to go with the swagger that saw Sale Sharks sunk seven days earlier.

Of course, a trip to Saracens is on another level completely.

Though the home side will be shorn of several international stars, they can still field one of the best sides in the Premiership.

But Gloucester showed they can be beaten last weekend.

And Saints have never shied away from trips to Allianz Park, always showing a willingness to play expansive rugby on the artificial surface.

They have earned some memorable successes there in the past, but history will count for nothing this weekend.

At least they hope it won't, considering how tough they have had it against Saracens in recent years.

But they did push them to their limits at the Gardens back in September, with only two late David Strettle tries denying Saints a memorable win in Chris Boyd's first game against Saracens.

The boss breeds confidence with his approach to matches and you can bet that Saints will not be travelling south with any fear in their eyes this Saturday.

Whether they can get the win they so desperately want is another matter.

But their chances of achieving their aims are surely better than they have been for some time.

Tom's prediction: Saracens 28 Saints 34